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Historic Golden Mile Loopline Railway from Kalgoorlie to Boulder in WA Goldfields set to live again
A newly refurbished locomotive will emerge from the scrap heap next year.
It will then slowly but surely wind its way up a 114-year-old rail line to the top of Australia's largest open cut gold mine in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
It's not only the historic track and its trains, that the community group, Golden Mile Loopline Railway Society, is helping to rehabilitate.
Each week, prisoners from the regional prison join a bunch of young people who have dropped out of school to work together to restore what was once Australia's busiest railway service.
"It was the linking point here in the Goldfields that put the miners, the workers and the timber lines all together," said the society's manager Mike Lucas.
The former mining engineer and current owner of the nearby historic Ora Banda Hotel believes the ambitious project is not only restoring the past, but helping to create a more positive future.
Khayle, 15, and Leslie, 16, arrived at the rustic rail yard in Boulder with troubled backgrounds; both were unemployed and out of school.
Leslie admits they were heading down a dangerous path.
''The Department of Education, they got me in to this place and that's kind of set the goal in my mind of what I want to do," he said.
"Before I didn't have any clue, now I want to do building and construction."
Leslie says working with the prisoners has played a large part in his new found direction.
"I reckon the prison guys are actually really good guys," he said.
"They teach you a fair bit because they have all been in trades prior to going to prison.
"When I've gone wrong with something they've shown me what to do.
Khayle also likes the prisoners.
"My father hasn't been around since I was two, the blokes down here treat us well," he said.
"The prisoners tell you the stuff that's important and the stuff that you shouldn't do."
Mr Lucas believes the kids get a strong dose of reality handed to them by people who know what it means to take the wrong path in life.
"Everyone makes mistakes and we hope we all learn from them, but these guys have made a fairly large mistake, and this is what's happened to them," he said.
"The prisoners come in the morning, they get out of the bus, they put their work boots on and they are often into it, before anyone has to say anything to them.
"They know what they are doing and they've taken full ownership of the job.
"They are very pro-active and give good advice to the kids; these guys actually know the full story.
"They can say to the young guys, this is what happens if you do it wrong like I did, and it's actually a very honest statement.
"The young people can actually talk to someone who has been down that road and it's a very scary thought sometimes."
The Eastern Goldfields Regional Prison Superintendent, Peter Ilich, says in terms of prisoner rehabilitation, the community interaction has proven to be invaluable.
"I think everyone responds to positive feedback," he said.
"When you sit back and have a look at it, at the end of the day they are all people, and people respond to each other with a bit of trust and respect.
"It's about providing the opportunity.
"It comes down to the drive that the guys have, as with anybody who is presented with an opportunity, it's a choice of what they want to do with it, these guys really respond to that.
"When our guys are out there they are not prisoners, they are employees, so they are actually out there on a par with the people they are working with."
Mr Illich believes community projects like the Loopline provide substantial benefits to the prisoners and the community alike.
"We made a conscious decision here about 18 months ago, that for so long corrective services and prisons in particular have been isolated from the community," he said.
"We thought we actually have a social responsibility to be part of the community, to get our work force involved in projects which support things like the Loopline and other not-for-profit organisations.
"The trade-off for us is that the guys can develop their skills.
"We have success stories where prisoners have actually been out there doing the work, training, and when they've been released from prison, they've gone into full time employment."
Like the prisoners, Khayle and Leslie's hard work and dedication to the program has helped them re-direct their lives.
Leslie, like Khayle, is about to start a building and construction course with the YMCA.
"I didn't know what to do after leaving school and they've [the prisoners] influenced me in what I've wanted to do," he said.
"They want the best for you. They don't want to see you end up in prison as well."
Once the course is completed, the two plan to secure apprenticeships and ply their trade in the mining industry.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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